Touched By Angels touched by the Mass. AG
Touched By Angels (TBA), a Cape Cod outfit that takes the profit out of the word non-profit, may have looked like an angel.But then the Massachusetts Attorney General, like Elvis, “got wise.” and figured out that Touched by Angles is “the devil in disguise.”
Last week, Gina Clark, founder and, apparently, prime beneficiary of TBA, was charged with multiple counts of fraud, embezzlement, running an illegal lottery, and a slew of labor violations.
TBA’s mission – or, better, public-facing raison d'être – was to provide financial help to middle-class families that had suffered the loss of a child or parent, or were facing major medical bills, or something else generosity-inspiring. These families have too much money for public assistance, but too little to get through a crisis by going out of pocket.
Every month or so, TBA would pick a lucky/unlucky family to sponsor, and do fund-raising on their behalf. The outfit put up collection tables outside of grocery stores, ran raffles, held auctions, and put on “nights.” Unfortunately, the pay-outs to those in need were mostly done under the generally unacceptable rules of “one for me, none for you” accounting. In what was typical of TBA’s MO:
…Clark's fundraising techniques also included operating and promoting an illegal lottery scheme, in which she and TBA staff solicited local businesses to donate items, such as merchandise, gift cards, and gift certificates. Clark and TBA staff informed these business owners that the items would be raffled off and the proceeds used to help the sponsored families.
However, none of the proceeds raised through these unauthorized raffles went to help any of the sponsored families.
TBA had been shut down last August, prompted by complaints from a number of the sponsored families, who were getting next to nothing out of fundraisers done in their names, and ex-employees whistleblowing (including allegations of rigging the raffle winners).
The indictments against Clark were reported last week on Cape Cod Today.
But before the long-arm of the law reached out to clip Clark’s wings, she was given the puff-piece treatment in The Barnstable Patriot,
“I’ve had a few tragedies in my life,” Gina Clark said. “Because of my income, I couldn’t get any help from the government.”
Remembering her own difficulties, Clark wished to help others in similar situations.
“I once owned two spas and was debating on opening another but decided against it,” she said. “I thought, ‘What could I do?’”
Chris suggested she start a non-profit.
Well, I can honestly say that, if I were to ask my husband what he thought I could do to occupy my time and make a living while doing so, the last thing on earth he would come up with would be “start a non-profit.”
And if I were to coming up with a business idea, non-profit would be even further out there than “last thing on earth”. It would be more like “last thing in the galaxy.” (Unless, of course, I win big bucks in the lottery and get to set up my own foundation…)
Anyway, even if you discount all the supposedly profit-making but fundamentally non-profit companies I worked for over the years, I’ve been up-close-and-personal with enough true non-profits to know that running one is hard work. Yes, the “doing good” part of a non-profit can be rewarding, but for most folks involved in the non-profit world, “doing good” had better be its own reward, ‘cause you’re not going to get rich working there. Sure, there are major non-profit CEO’s who make big bucks. But most of those folks are running what is tantamount to a large and complex corporation. The big difference is that corporations sell people something that those people think they’re going to derive some benefit from. In a non-profit, you’re essentially the intermediary between those who need something and those who can afford to pay for that something. So you’re selling an intangible good: feeling good. Maybe it sounds easy, but, as far as I can tell, it’s actually pretty damned hard to keep things going, especially these days.
But maybe it’s easier if you have a touch of larceny in your heart. What’s a better motivator than the “moi” charity?
And you may even get touched by someone who’s been touched by someone famous:
Recently Clark was in a South Shore store talking with folks about TBA when a relative of Ben Affleck provided her with his contact information, encouraging her to get him involved.
“I’m still shocked,” said Clark.
Wonder whether Clark ever did put the touch on Ben.
I’m sure the TBA logo would hold a lot of appeal for him. (Not to mention how thrilled he must be every time one of his relatives dimes him.)
Pink is for breast cancer aware-ness and the wings are for guidance.
“My wings are guiding me through my mission,” said Clark. “I love helping people.”
Well, of course, the Lord does help those who help themselves.
Now, this is ‘merica, so Clark is innocent until proven guilty. And let us not presume guilt because Clark is a blowsy, working-class biker chick, living in a swank $700K home on the Cape (with pool), and driving an Escalade.
And let’s acknowledge that maybe Clark didn’t start out to make TBA her personal errand of mercy. Maybe she actually did have good intentions.
This is the same Gina Clark whose name was all over a 2006 complaint filed by an elderly Cape couple against Clark and one of the couple’s daughters. The couple contended that they were defrauded out of nearly $500K. (Source: Cape Cod Today.)
Some of the money allegedly went to Clark acting as the conduit to a mysterious private detective supposedly helping one of the couple’s daughters with her divorce. The last couple-to-Clark-to-detective payment was for $70,600.
Within a short period of that payment, Clark and her husband gave up their modest rental home, trading up from:
Which comes with a hefty mortgage, and which was “purchased” with a down payment of $71,000.
$70,600. $71,000. Hmmmmm.
Sure, there’s a $400 difference, but is this what’s known as circumstantial evidence? Or just a cowinkidink.
The complaint was later withdrawn for unexplained reasons, but likely either family pressure, or the couple being resigned to not being able to recover their money. Still, there’s an awful lot of smoke curling around Clark’s angel wings…
I guess because I’m the suspicious type, I’m thinking “grifter,” and that Gina Clark’s days living large, and at large, may be coming to an end.
Perhaps those wings will be coming in handy soon. As in: If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly.
Or maybe there’ll be charity willing to help her out. Even at this very moment, there may be a husband somewhere, suggesting that his wife set up a non-profit.
Labels: interesting business